'Blistered and bleeding': Toronto MPP calls for ban on mandatory high heels in workplaces

Toronto Liberal MPP Cristina Martins is putting forward a private member's bill to stop workplaces in Ontario from making high heels mandatory, saying the footwear leaves women "blistered and bleeding."

The proposed changes come after a Marketplace Investigation into gendered uniforms at Toronto restaurants

A Toronto MPP says mandatory high heels in the workplace unfairly put women at risk. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

A Toronto Liberal MPP is putting forward a private member's bill to stop workplaces in Ontario from making high heels mandatory.

Cristina Martins announced the legislation, titled the "Putting Your Best Foot Forward Act." at Queen's Park Tuesday. 

"After a day's work, women are coming home blistered and bleeding and the lack of adequate foot and ankle support means there is a high risk of more serious, on-the-job injuries," Martins asserted.

The announcement follows a CBC Marketplace investigation that revealed dozens of female staff at Toronto's top restaurants felt pressured to wear gendered outfits or risk losing shifts.

Those issues prompted a number of staff members in Martins's office who worked in the food and hospitality industry to bring the problem to the MPP's attention, said Alexander Byrne-Krzycki, legislative assistant to Martins.

The conversation grew from there, Byrne-Krzycki says. 

The bill seeks to reduce the impact of "inappropriate, unsafe footwear" — as Martins describes it — worn by women across all industries.

Davenport MPP Cristina Martins says women are expected to risk their personal safety to meet 'unfair dress codes.' (Queen's Park)

'From blisters to broken bones'

The Davenport MPP is trying to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to stop employers from requiring an employee to wear footwear that is "not appropriate to the protection required for the employee's work or that does not allow the employee to safely perform his or her work," the bill reads. 

The president of the Ontario Podiatric Medical Association, James Hill, agrees that wearing high heels can pose a safety risk to the wearer.

"We see a lot of injuries because of heels, from blisters to breaking a bone," the chiropodist said, calling the bill a "win."

British Columbia banned mandatory high heels in the workplace in April.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission issued a policy paper last year on gender-specific dress codes, saying women who work in restaurants and bars should not be forced to wear high heels, short skirts and low-cut tops.

"The "Putting Your Best Foot Forward Act 2017" does not prohibit the wearing of high heels in the workplace. It only prevents workplaces from making them mandatory as part of a dress code," Martins said. 

The issue will be debated at Queen's Park Thursday.